Whatever else you might say about Guy Carbonneau and his tenure as coach of the franchise for which he bled as a player, you can't say the man doesn't have class. I watched his farewell news conference this afternoon and he handled himself with dignity and a touch of humour, while skillfully deflecting questions about the rot that seems to have infected the core of the Canadiens.
I think Carbo made a lot of mistakes. He played one-dimensional players too much. He gave Carey Price too much leeway when the team needed stability in goal and Price couldn't offer it. He called out players publicly too often. He changed lines like socks and he made incomprehensible decisions about which players to have on the ice at crucial times. But I think the mistakes he made would have been mitigated by a winning team, the same way they were last year. He wasn't perfect then either, but the team was just so much better it didn't seem to matter. Most of the bad decisions this year were in reaction to the team's losing. Now, since the team is playing in exactly the same listless, defensively porous, weak-willed way under GM Bob Gainey as it did under Carbonneau, we might be forced to think maybe coaching wasn't the problem after all.
Carbonneau handled every question thrown at him with aplomb today. Whatever criticism he's received about being a poor communicator, it doesn't carry over into his relationship with the media. As expected of an employee who will continue to be paid by the organization for the next two years, he graciously thanked team ownership, management and the other coaches. He even thanked the players whose lack of the same on-ice determination that defined Carbo as a player cost him his job. He talked about his love of hockey and of the team and hoped that he'll be able to continue to work in the game. He choked up a bit when he talked about this being his first firing...obviously a failure for a man who will do anything to win.
The one answer that intrigued me was in response to the question, "Would you like to discuss the team with Bob, and would you offer any advice about any bad apples in the room; who to keep and who to let go?" Carbo said, "Yes, I'd very much like to talk to Bob about that, after the season." Interesting comment from an insightful, diplomatic and possibly wrongfully dismissed man, no?